City Guide, Cairo
Cairo, is the capital of Egypt and the largest city in the Arab world and Africa,
and the 16th largest metropolitan area in the world. Located near the Nile Delta,
it was founded in 969 AD
City of Cairo is still in the eyes of the Egyptians the City Victorious, known officially
as al-Qahirah or simply "Masr", the name for Egypt as a whole. Cairo is
one of the world's largest urban areas and offers many sites to visit. It is the
administrative capital of Egypt and, close by, is almost every Egypt Pyramid, such
as the Great Pyreat of Giza on the very edge of the city. There are also ancient
temples, tombs, gorgeous Christian Churches, magnificent Muslim monuments, and of
course, the Egyptian Antiquities Museum all either within or nearby to the city.
One only needs to look up to the Pyramid on the skyline to be reminded that Cairo's
ancient attractions are part of the city's fabric rather than only tourist exhibits.
Cairo has been attracting tourists for thousands of years, and the Pyramids of
Giza alongside the Sphinx are some of the oldest and arguably most impressive attractions
in the world. One would think other attractions in Cairo competing for attention
would pale in comparison. Yet, visitors find some of the best the sights in Cairo
are rare places where people go about daily life in ancient surroundings.
Not least among these is Khan al-Khalili, a central and much used market which
gives visitors a chance to experience the bazaar much as it was 700 years ago. Another
is Old Cairo, an ancient Coptic Christian community from Roman times. Other historic
religious sites still in use include the ancient Hanging Church and the slightly
less ancient (12th century) but enormous Saladin Citadel.
Culture and entertainment
The entertainment offered in Cairo ranges from theater, art, dance, dining, museums,
bars and cinemas. The museums in Cairo suit just about any interest. Anyone interested
in Egypt’s Pharaonic past should visit the Egyptian Museum located on Tahrir
Square. Other interesting museums are the museums of Islamic Art and the Coptic
Museum. Besides having a comprehensive collection these museums are situated near
other must-see historical sites.These includes Abdeen Palace Museum and the Manial
Palace Museum – filled with interesting accounts of the pre-revolution period.
The Gezirah Art Center, another great site, located near the Marriot in Zamalek,
has a lovely collection of ceramics. The Mahmoud Khalil Museum in Dokki displays
a private collection of European art—including works by Monet, Gauguin, Pissarro,
and Van Gogh. The National Museum of Egyptian Modern Art, located at the Opera House
complex, has an extensive collection, mostly by 20th century artists.
Food and drink
The range of food in Egypt is very wide and cosmopolitan. Mostly you will find
dishes are a cross between Middle-Eastern and Mediterranean cuisine. Food is available
in large restaurants or from street corner stalls and snack bars. The smaller snack-bars
and cafes usually offer a good range of inexpensive lightly-spiced Egyptian food
as well as sandwiches, pizzas and french fries. Falafel, or tamiya, is a delicious
deep-fried snack made from beans and is available freshly cooked on every street
corner. Check out how clean the stall looks, as some of these places don’t
have running water or refrigeration.
The traditional Egyptian breakfast is ‘ful’ which is a kind of bean
stew and extremely filling, but larger hotels and cruise ships will offer a buffet
breakfast with just about anything you could possibly imagine, including a wide
range of breads and cakes. Smaller hotels tend to stick to a continental breakfast
of croissants or bread rolls with jam, honey, or cheese and tomatoes and sometimes
eggs. Plain yoghurt is also popular.
Tea is a traditional drink in Egypt and you will probably drink gallons of it
while there, whether you like it or not. It is made by boiling a powdery form of
tea leaves in a kettle of water until it is stewed, and then a large quantity of
sugar is added. It is served in small glasses without handles. Coffee, unless you
ask for Nescafe, will be similar to Turkish coffee, served in tiny cups with a thick
residue of coffee grains in the bottom. This will also be very sweet unless you
ask for only a little or no sugar.
Shopping in Cairo is rather like shopping in one enormous, sprawling marketplace
- there are shops everywhere! Virtually any item from any part of Egypt can be found
for sale somewhere in Cairo and you often don't have far to search to find some
great souvenirs of your holiday. A large number of modern shopping malls have recently
become an integral part of the city and are especially popular with visiting tourists.
When shopping around Cairo, popular gift ideas include wooden backgammon boards,
jewellery boxes, lamps, stripy rugs, pottery, silk shawls and painted papyrus, which
are usually fairly cheap, since most are simply painted on banana leaves. For traditional
Egyptian jewellery in Cairo, a number of gold and silver shops lie around the Khan
al-Khalili area, where most pieces are simply sold by weight, with perhaps a small
charge for craftsmanship.